Kawhi Leonard to Demand Trade Away From Spurs
There was no shortage of drama surrounding Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs this past season. The former Finals MVP was limited to just 9 games thanks to a lingering quad injury, though the player was reportedly cleared by team doctors to play back in February. Rather than returning, however, Leonard decided to stay away from the team in order to continue his rehab.
There was no public statement from Leonard regarding potential interest in leaving San Antonio, but now it sure sounds like he has his sights set on skipping town. According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, Leonard has indicated that he would like to be traded this summer. ESPN added that Leonard’s preferred destination would be the Lakers, but he would also welcome a deal to the Clippers just to get back to his hometown of Los Angeles. However, the Spurs have yet to be notified by Leonard of the request.
Haynes reports that Leonard has “grown frustrated” with the way the Spurs handled his quad injury, and he believes the team turned on him when he sought a second opinion from outside medical sources. Leonard’s sense of betrayal is reportedly so strong that he is not concerned about passing on a potential “supermax” extension with the Spurs that would pay him $219 million over 5 seasons.
Leonard is eligible to receive said contract from the Spurs this summer. If he passes on that, he has the ability to opt out of his current deal after the coming season and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. Leonard has reportedly been in contact with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, though the 2 haven’t yet spoken in person.
Popovich has been away from San Antonio this week in order to address a family issue. Leonard has been training in San Diego over the last month, and ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne says that he has made “great progress” in his return from the injury.
Leonard has established himself as one of the best 2-way players in the league since the Spurs acquired him in a draft-day trade from the Indiana Pacers in 2011. Leonard came into the league as a raw offensive player, but he has developed immensely on that end of the floor. 2 seasons ago, he averaged a career-best 25.5 points per game while also serving as arguably the best wing defender in the league.
There will be tons of interest in Leonard if he is to hit the trade market. While the Lakers may be the prohibitive favorites, the Spurs should be able to land quite a haul in exchange for the 26-year-old superstar. The New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings have already been floated as potential suitors, while one would imagine the Boston Celtics will be sure to kick the tires if given the opportunity.
Leonard has appeared in a pair of NBA Finals during his time with the Spurs, both of which came against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Spurs were beaten on their first attempt, but San Antonio got the better of Miami in 2014 as Leonard was named Finals MVP.
Leonard is a 2-time All-Star and a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year. He has appeared on the All-NBA First Defense team 3 times and qualified for the All-Defense second team once.
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